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Every two weeks, I dive into larger looks at Canadian history. I thought it would be interesting to bring in a new feature to run during the weeks the larger history pieces don’t, and that is to look at Canada through the years, every year, from 1867 to today.
With this being the first episode of Canada Year-By-Year, I am obviously starting with the first year for the country, 1867.
Now, since this is only looking at when Canada was a country, I will be focusing this piece on July 1 to Dec. 31 of 1867.
The big event of the year, of course, was Dominion Day, when Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick formed together to create the Dominion of Canada through the British North America Act. Sir John A. Macdonald would become the first Prime Minister of Canada.
While that is the big event, it wasn’t the only one.
It was also on July 1 that the Windsor Police Service was created. The police service would replace the Royal Canadian Rifle Regiment that had previously served the community.
With a new country now formed, there was a great deal of work to be done in regards to who would lead the provinces within the country.
Hiram Blanchard would be the first premier of Nova Scotia, serving in that capacity until Sept. 30 of 1867 when his party was decimated at the September election by the Anti-Confederation Party.
Pierre-Joseph Chauveau would become the first premier of Quebec, while also serving as the Provincial Secretary and the Minister of Education. In addition to being the premier of the province, he also served as a federal minister in Parliament. This was allowed until 1874 when the practice was stopped. He would serve as premier until 1873.
John Macdonald was chosen as the first premier of Ontario, a position he would hold until 1871. Just like Chauveau, he also served as an MP in the House of Commons at the same time. He would also be the last Roman Catholic premier of the province for the next 132 years.
Canada’s first official election would take place from Aug. 7 to Sept. 20 with the Conservative, Liberal and Anti-Confederation Parties all vying for power.
The Conservatives under John A. Macdonald would take the election with 100 seats and 34.8 per cent of the vote. The Liberals, unofficially led by George Brown, took 62 seats, or 22.7 per cent of the vote. Joseph Howe and the Anti-Confederation Party took 18 seats and 7.9 per cent of the vote.
Ontario held its own election on Sept. 3, with John Macdonald of the Conservatives and Archibald McKellar of the Liberals both taking 41 seats. Only 13 per cent of the population voted, which was done orally. Due to the tie in seats, a coalition government was formed under Macdonald.
The Parliamentary Press Gallery was established and during the early years members were associated with political parties.
The Quebec election would happen from August to September, with Chauveau picking up 51 seats out of 63, easily defeating his Liberal opponent.
The year 1867 wasn’t all about elections.
At the Stanstead Fall Fair in Quebec, the Henry Seth Taylor steam buggy was debuted. Modelled on a US-built steam car, the vehicle ran thanks to a coal-fire boiler. Steam would move a piston attached to a rear axle, thereby giving it movement. This was the first known car to be built in Canada. Never meant for mass production, it was only shown at various fairs in the area. The vehicle would sit in a barn for nearly 100 years until it was found in the 1950s and restored. In 1983, it was put in the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa.
Several future prominent Canadians would be born in the second half of 1867. One was Thomas Walter Scott, who was born in Ontario on Oct. 27. Scott would go on to be editor of the Regina Leader-Post, and the first premier of Saskatchewan from 1905 to 1916.
There were also notable deaths that year, including that of Edward Whelan on Dec. 10. Considered to be one of the fathers of Canadian Confederation, he was born in 1824 in Ireland and came to Canada at seven-years-old. Working as a journalist, he supported Confederation and saw it as a good opportunity for Prince Edward Island to control its affairs. He was one of the delegates for PEI at the Quebec Conference. Unfortunately, most other politicians and citizens from the island did not agree and PEI would not join Canada until 1873. Bitter over the defeat, his health began to decline in the fall of 1867 before he would pass away at the end of the year.